CHAT WITH IAN WILFRED

Ian Wilfred is 50+ but in his head he will always be 39. He lives in the UK on the Norfolk coast with his husband and West Highland Terrier where he writes romantic comedies.

Time to chat with Ian!

What is your latest book?

My new book is My Perfect Summer In Greece and it’s set on the fictional Greek island of Holkamos. The main character, Cheryl, has a sister Julie who is getting married on the island. Julie won’t allow Cheryl to be a bridesmaid because ‘she’s too frumpy.’ On the day of the wedding, Cheryl has a huge surprise for her family. There are three other characters: Vangelis, who owns the beach café; André, who’s come back to the island after the death of his father, and John, Cheryl’s best friend. These four together make for a very interesting summer.

Is your recent book a series?

No, it’s not a series, but it is set on the same island that my last book, Secrets We Left In Greece, was set. Some characters appear in both books, but the island itself is one of the stars of both books with the town’s visages and the stunning beaches.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

I didn’t choose it; it chose me. Back in 2012, when I started writing, what ended up on the page just happened to be romance with a bit of comedy and a lot of friendship.

All set on the Canary Island of Tenerife, Putting Right The Past was Carole’s story written in diary form. Carole has inherited some money and moves to the island. That’s when the fun begins as she tries to help her new friends and neighbours put right their past lots of secrets, lies, gossip, and even blackmail.

More than anything, however, friendship is a central theme that runs through all of my books.


Are your characters ever based on people you know?

Every main character has bits of people I’ve come across over many years. I’ve been very blessed in my working life to have come in contact with thousands of fabulous women— from teenagers to more mature ladies. Their reaction to events and situations, not forgetting their attitude about life, all ends up on the page. In the book I’m writing now, the beginning is based on a true story that happened to a friend over thirty years ago. All I can tell you is that is has to do with a package!

If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker what would it be?

That’s a good question and very easy to answer. Never Too Old For Love. That title represents all my books especially The Little Terrace Of Friendships that is set in London, New York, and the fabulous Martha’s Vineyard … a place I so enjoyed researching on the Internet. Unfortunately, I didn’t go there, but my character Maggie did and she had a wonderful time.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

They surprise me all the time. In one of my books, a gorgeous lady ended up with the wrong man. While I was plotting, it was my plan for her to end up with a different man, but ninety thousand words later, she did the complete opposite of what I had planned for her to do. The nerve! Also, I’ve had characters that I developed to be horrible people, yet they ended up being the loveliest person in the book. Go figure! Don’t ask me how that happens; I will never know.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most?

I love it when the first draft of the story is all in my head and I just want to get it written down. All my books are around 100K words. I love getting to the 30K point where the characters are embedded in the story and everything is gelling. This is the point where someone new appears and the story starts to change, things happen, and the action gets exciting.

The other part of the book process I love is cover design. I work very closely with my designer, Cathy. The emails between us are exciting, and it is like we are in the same room even though I’m in the UK and she’s over in America. As for the bit I hate, this has to be stage where I’m doing the third and forth edits. I start to get bored because the text is too familiar. Thank goodness for my fabulous editor, Nancy.

Some authors edit as they go along. Others wait until the end. How about you?

The first couple of books I wrote, I edited, wrote, then edited. But this didn’t work for me. I found I got lost and couldn’t keep up with the stories or the characters. Now, I write and don’t go back until those two famous words are written: The End. I also write everyday even if it’s just a couple of hundred words one day and several thousand. I often go to sleep thinking about what’s next for my characters, where they are going, and what will they be up to.

Are you easily distracted while writing? If so what do you do to help yourself stay focused?

Two words, Lisette. Yes, Twitter, as you know because it was on Twitter we met. I love it everything about it: authors’ publication days, cover reveals, chart positions, and blogs. It’s 24/7. Tuesdays are my worst days: #tuesnews @rnatweets. That’s the day all of the Romantic Novelist Association members get on the old Twitter with their book news. I never feel guilty on a Tuesday. The rest of the time I give myself targets write X number of words and then I allow myself fifteen minutes on Twitter.

How important is choosing characters names? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right?

Yes. I’ve never told anyone this before, but in my book, The Little Terrace of Friendships, I had named the main character Mabel. Later, my editor and my formatter, Nancy and Rebecca, both said it sounded more like a cat’s name than a person’s name. So, Mabel became Maggie, and that was definitely the right thing to do. That said, I have told myself one day a Mabel will appear in one of my books, even if it’s as a cat.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

I sure do. Write every day, even if it’s just a couple of paragraphs. Also read every interview and watch every video the fabulous author Milly Johnson has done about writing.

We all know the saying, “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” This is true, however, how much importance do you place on your book covers?

The book cover is a huge part of the story. I’m so very lucky and blessed to have been recommended to Cathy Helms at Avalon Graphics. She is the best! Cathy has designed all my covers except for the first one. She knows what I like, and more importantly she knows what I don’t like.

Do you miss not spending time with your characters when you’ve finished writing them?

Yes, definitely, because they have been a huge part of my life for so many months. It’s tough when they’re suddenly gone. The best way for me to stop missing them is to start a new book. But I’ve often wondered what it would be like to bring them all together in one book. That could be a lot of fun.

Where do you live now? If you could move where might that be?

I’m very lucky to live in Norfolk in the UK. It’s on the coast and we are five minutes walk from the beach. If it’s not raining, I go there every day with my dog. If I could live anywhere else, it would be lovely to live in Parga, Greece. There are such lovely people there, not to mention the food, the gorgeous weather, and Valtos Beach: a true paradise.

What your favorite comfort foods?

Another easy question, Lisette. I love fish and chips, but they must be seaside fish and chips, eaten on the sea wall. That’s how I celebrate all my publication days, even in winter. I do love my food. A big lump of cheese, a jar of mayonnaise, and a few glasses of red wine make for a very happy Mr Wilfred.

Whats’ your favorite film of all time?

It has to be Pretty Woman why because Julia Roberts is fabulous and Richard Gere are very special. Another film has to be Steel Magnolias. The chemistry between the characters, the acting, and all the actresses is just wonderful.

What simple pleasures do you have?

I have a very simple pleasure that happens every day of the year. First thing in the morning, my husband and I walk with our dog on the beach for an hour or so. It is the perfect start to the day. If for some reason I miss it for a couple of days, I’m so irritable.

What makes you angry?

A lot of things make me angry, but the worse is violence, bullying, and cruelty. There is no excuse for any of those things. It’s very sad to have to keep reading and hearing about it

Thank you so much for having me on your blog Lisette I’ve enjoyed answering the questions.

It has been a real pleasure, Ian!

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CHAT WITH CW HAWES

CW Hawes is a sixty-something guy who is living his dream of being a full-time writer (and, yes, the retirement income helps him to do that). Prior to writing fiction, he was a successful poet.

Hawes enjoys simple pleasures, because, in the end, life is pretty simple. People are the ones who make it complex. After all, what more is there than a well-made cup of tea and listening to music, or the rain falling?

Time to chat with CW!

What is your latest book?

My last book is When Friends Must Die: A Justinia Wright Private Investigators Mystery. Which was published in December 2018.

I am also currently serializing on my blog The Medusa Ritual: A Pierce Mostyn Paranormal Investigation.

Is your recent book part of a series?

Yes. When Friends Must Die is Book 6 of the Justinia Wright Private Investigator Mystery series. There is also a Book 0.

The Medusa Ritual is Book 5 in the Pierce Mostyn Paranormal Investigation series.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

For me, the challenge to writing a series is that the main characters remain fresh and interesting.

What else have you written?

The Rocheport Saga, which is a post-apocalyptic cozy catastrophe. There are currently seven books in the series.

The Lady Dru Drummond alternative history series. There are currently two books in this series.

I’ve also written and published the alternative history novella Rand Hart and the Pajama Putsch.

 Horror is another interest of mine. In particular, cosmic and supernatural horror. I’ve published the following novellas and stories: Do One Thing For Me, Ancient History, Metamorphosis, and What the Next Day Brings.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

I think the greatest misconception is that indie authors are basically writers who couldn’t make it in the traditional publishing world and went the self-publishing route. Although as time goes on, I think that image is fading. Primarily because the Kindle and iPad are everywhere.

When people ask me, I simply tell them that I get more money self-publishing than I would have gotten going the traditional route. And that I don’t have a boss. I’m self-employed.

Actually I prefer the term independent author-publisher. Because that is actually what we indie writers are. We are our own publishing house.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I enjoy the writing the most. Putting those words down on paper. I actually enjoy holding the pen or pencil and watching the words form, the story take shape on the page. It is like reading, watching the story unfold and progress to the ending.

Writing, though, isn’t just about writing. Unless one writes solely for one’s self, with no thought towards publication. And I do want other people to enjoy my books and stories as much as I do. Which means, one must edit and proofread one’s work. And that I don’t care for. I wish I had the money to pay someone else to do it. 🙂

So to minimize what I don’t like about the writing business, I strive to write finished text. Text that comes off the pen or pencil pretty much ready for publication. That is the secret weapon of the prolific writer. It is what allowed Anthony Trollope to become the Victorian Writing Machine. It is what allowed the pulp fiction writers of the 20s, 30s, and 40s to usually write over 100,000 words each month, every month, every year.

I also don’t like marketing my books. But marketing in some form is a must in order for readers to know I exist. Although from all I’ve read, I think marketing can be minimized by building a strong mailing list of fans. An army of fans to drive Amazon’s algorithms and to spread the word.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

Not at all. I get an idea and just start writing the book, figuring out the story as I go along. Although mysteries tend to be easy in that regard as the ending is pretty much foreordained. Horror too.

I tried following the advice of outlining my novel and just couldn’t do it. I hate outlining for one; and for two, if I’m going to spend time outlining the story, why don’t I just write it?

For me, writing is like reading. I discover the book as I go along.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

Ever since my days in college, all those decades ago, I’ve basically followed the same procedure. I hand write the text. Then I edit as I type. And I’m done. Next project.

I have, though, added two more steps. Following Anthony Trollope, I re-read what I wrote the day before and make any needed edits. Then after I’ve typed the text, I will read several times to catch typos and clunky sentences. I also have the computer read the text to me as I follow along. I catch a lot of typos that way, because the computer reads exactly what is there.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

Way back in the 1960s, when I was in 11th grade, my drama class teacher had the class stage a play I wrote. That was my first “publishing” credit, as it were. Next I had a few poems published in fantasy and horror fanzines in the 70s. But I never did much with writing because no one around me was encouraging.

Then I read an article by Lawrence Block. The subject was procrastination and why we actually procrastinate. Reading that article was a life changing moment. I was procrastinating mostly because I was afraid I’d fail and then my parents would say, “Told you so.”

That article percolated for quite awhile, and then in 1989 I wrote the first version of Festival of Death. The first book in the Justinia Wright series. I wrote the book over the course of a year. And learned three things: that I could indeed write novel length fiction, that I had a lot to learn about writing, and that with my job at the time, which was very emotionally draining, long works of fiction were out of the question. Writing the book was exhausting.

So I turned to poetry. Never would I have imagined myself as a poet, but poetry was my first big success in the publishing world. And the form I excelled at was the English language version of tanka, a Japanese form.

For the 15 or so years I wrote poetry, I wrote over 2000 poems and had a few hundred published. I even won or placed in a few contests, received a few awards and special recognition, and even made a couple bucks. One doesn’t write poetry for money, because there is none to be made.

Then, as I neared retirement, I decided I wanted to spend the rest of my life writing fiction, which is my first love. So I dove in headfirst. I finished writing my marathon The Rocheport Saga in February 2014, and prepared the first two books for publication. I re-wrote Festival of Death, wrote Trio in Death-Sharp Minor, and The Moscow Affair.

Having read about writing and the publishing world for 50 years, I knew traditional publishing was not for me. And decided to go indie. It’s been a difficult road, but I don’t regret it.

In November 2014 I published four novels in four genres. Something I’d never do again! Then in December published two more books.

In January 2015 I retired and became a full-time author. Now I’m just waiting for the income to catch up.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?

No. I don’t suffer from writer’s block. Sometimes I don’t know where I want to go with a book. When that happens, I either set it aside and work on something else, or I just keep on writing and eventually the Muse saves the day.

Daniel Boone was asked once if he’d ever gotten lost in his wilderness explorations. He told the interviewer no. The interviewer didn’t believe Boone and pressed him on it. Boone finally said, “I’ve been bewildered at times, but I’ve never been lost.”

That’s my attitude with writer’s block.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

My favorite comfort food is probably pizza. And my least favorite food is liver.

What music soothes your soul?

I’m a classical music person. So in general classical music soothes the soul. Although there are a few non-classical pieces I listen to when my soul needs soothing. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Ralph Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending and The Solent
  • Handel’s “Sarabande” from the keyboard Suite in D minor in Ragna Schirmer’s performance on the piano and Christopher Parkening’s performance on guitar.
  • “Air” from Arthur Foote’s Serenade for Strings, Op 25; performed by Gerard Schwartz and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra
  • “Pavane” from Warlock’s Capriol Suite, performed by Liz Story
  • Skempton’s Lento
  • Michael Manring’s Sung to Sleep
  • Theme from Foyle’s War
  • Theme from Inspector Morse

 

What was the most valuable class you ever took in school? Why?

There were three, actually. Debate, journalism, and typing.

Debate taught me how to research and present a position with evidence.

Journalism taught me how to write so that the most important information was presented first, followed by information in lesser and lesser importance.

Typing, well, who can get along without typing? Until touch screens and voice activated devices make our fingers obsolete, that is.

What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

This question is like those desert island questions. And to be quite honest, I’m not sure I have a favorite film. There are a few good ones; a whole lot that are mediocre; and many more that are bad, or if not bad, at least quite forgettable.

Film is also not my favorite entertainment media. Reading is. Nevertheless, if I were to pick just one movie it would be either Little Big Man, or the Japanese movie Late Spring, directed by Yasujirō Ozu.

Both movies focus on what is important in life, what is it that has value and meaning for us. I think both movies tell us to throw out the window other people’s opinions and societal conventions, and to live life for ourselves.

My favorite book is actually a short story. One I read some 55 years ago, and one that has stayed with me all this time. It is Saki’s (HH Munro’s) story “Sredni Vashtar”. It too is a story about a revolt from convention, a revolt from those who think they know what is best for us, and in the end don’t actually care about us. They simply want us to conform to their life goals and purpose. It is a story about becoming free.

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Email: cwhawes@cwhawes.com

 

CREATIVE LIFE AFTER A LONG HIATUS by Shykia Bell

 

How does one bring a career back from the dead?

Okay, perhaps that’s a little dramatic, but it’s what came to mind a little over two years after my daughter was born. By that time, I was nearly five years into my unplanned hiatus following a series of family tragedies and medical emergencies in addition to a personal battle with anxiety and depression.

The return to my art and writing has been a long and arduous process which was compounded with the brand new challenge of motherhood. For several reasons, I’ve very rarely enlisted the help of sitters. Therefore, I’ve had to make additional sacrifices in order to get any work time in. Most times I’ve had to sacrifice either my work or sleep. 

I’m sure many mothers can relate to the struggle of finding their identity after becoming a parent.  Society has long conveyed the notion that motherhood is a woman’s ultimate purpose, and once attaining that purpose all else should be sacrificed. And while I believe that my life’s priorities have been rearranged, my duties as a parent do not overwrite my passions as an artist.  If anything, the former fuels the latter and vice versa. 

By default, the creative process for authors and artists is lonely. Motherhood can magnify that loneliness in a way. Naturally, as a wonderful new life is celebrated, creative potential is sometimes overshadowed, dismissed, or forgotten. Some people have assumed that I had abandoned my creative endeavors altogether. And as my new responsibilities dominated pretty much all my time few people noticed that a vital part of my life had all but faded away.

It was seemingly of little consequence to them. Perhaps they didn’t realize that my aspirations, like my beloved daughter, are also a vital part of my identity. They are not mere frivolous pastimes. Yet, unfortunately, many artists face the same stigma where the legitimacy of their craft is solely judged upon their level of success. And given the fact that prior to publishing DUALITY: Poems, Essays, and Reflections, it had been seven years since I last published any writing, my success was questionable.

So, how did I go from a seven-year creative struggle to finally publishing my work again? A lot of sleepless nights, a lot of work, improvisation, meditation, and encouragement from a couple of dear friends and loved ones. Sometimes I’d jot down ideas (or even entire passages) on my cellphone as I rocked my daughter to sleep. I’d do the same during car rides. Most of the time I’d sacrifice sleep to work on DUALITY, new drawings, or my forthcoming sci-fi novel. However, in recent days I’ve learned that as my daughter gets older, there are other ways to unapologetically claim time for my work. Part of that means stepping beyond what others expect of me as a mother. Another part of it means getting better at delegating tasks whenever possible.

When I experienced a medical scare this past fall, it revived my desire to finish what I had started while at the same time invoking a fear that some of the words I had written might have been prophetic of my own demise. The process revealed the people who care most about me. It also left me grateful for my health and renewed my respect for the fragility of time.

In some ways it’s ironic that motherhood has provided both the greatest challenge and the greatest inspiration for me to get my work out there again. It’s important that my daughter gets to know all parts of my authentic self since that’s the closest I’ll ever get to achieving immortality.

Here are four tips that have helped me emerge from my hiatus:

1. No longer seeking permission to work on my craft.

I learned that my creative aspirations will never mean more to anyone else than they do to me. I also learned to value my work time without feeling guilty about occasionally sacrificing socialization in order to attain it.

2. Learning to forgive myself when I get off track.

Life intervenes our well laid plans. Often repeatedly and relentlessly. Yet, it can be tempting to blame ourselves when things don’t work out. Blame is unproductive and can prevent us from circumnavigating the cause of our delays and learning from the challenges whenever possible. Also, sometimes unplanned deviations to our schedule can sometimes work in our favor, allowing us to catch mistakes or coming up with ideas me might not have otherwise considered.

3. Doing my best with whatever time I’m able to get for my work. Even if it’s just five minutes.

Some people have the luxury of having a consistent schedule for their projects. Being a stay-at-home mom, I typically rely on the wee hours for productivity. Yet, even that rarely pans out as I hope, given the unpredictable sleep patterns of my beloved toddler. This means frequent interruptions. To cope with this, I work on what I can and make bookmarks and notations of where I left off. 

4. Understanding the importance of stress management.

Stress hinders the creative process and can discourage us from pursuing our dreams. Finding some method to decompress is vital to our recovery from stress. For some it’s meditation, yoga, exercise, music, reading, or other pastimes. In anticipation of stressful times, I created playlists of uplifting songs and speeches. Find what works best for you and incorporate it into your routine.

Shykia Bell is an author, poet, artist, and creator of The Bell Studio. Additionally, she is a freelance writer / graphic designer. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their daughter.

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Duality: Poems, Essays, and Reflections is now available at Amazon

Artwork from the collection is available at the author’s Redbubble shop

Medium blog: An Unexpected Diagnosis: How a Feared Ending Led to a New Beginning

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